Need to Cancel a Gig?

by | May 15, 2016 | Professionalism | 2 comments

You should never cancel a gig if you can avoid it, but sometimes we all have to.  Here are my 6 tips for canceling a gig with the least negative impact on your professional career.  While this may seem like a lot of work, you should try to get this wrapped up in a day.  If you need to back out of a gig, you need to let those who hired you know as quickly as possible!

  1. Find a Sub: Ask around and find at least one professional of equal competency to you to play the gig. Do not offer the gig to this other person yet.  That’s not your call and perhaps the person who hired you has a second choice in mind already or has another reason not to hire the replacement you recommend.
  2. Who Can Do It: Make sure this player can do all of the same rehearsal and performance dates.
  3. For the Same Money: Make sure the player is willing to do it for the same money. If they want more, you should pay the difference.
  4. Get the Sub’s Contact Info: Make sure the player is okay with you sharing his/her contact info.
  5. Cancel the Gig: Contact the person who hired you to play the gig, explain that you must cancel, but that you’ve found an equally able player who’s ready to take over for the remaining rehearsals and performances for the same money. Give them his/her contact info and say that you can provide additional suggestions if they desire (assuming you have any).  Tell them that you’ll plan to meet with whomever they hire to catch them up on what’s been done in rehearsals so far.
  6. Prep the Sub: If they decide to hire the player, meet with the player to catch the player up on any notes in your music (changes, breaths for singers, tempo markings you wrote in, etc.), so that they’re ready to sound just like you (or better) at the next rehearsal.

Understand that when you do this, you inconvenience your employer even if you take all the steps above. So do this sparingly or you will quickly develop a reputation as someone who drops from gigs, and people will stop hiring you.  It’s hard to shake that reputation once you develop it.

©2016 Aaron Alon. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Cody Garrett

    THIS. I especially like the part about “equal competency;” if you can’t find a sub who can do the job as well as (or better than) you, you shouldn’t sub it out. Also, it’s important not to cancel a gig for a “better” gig. The client you have to turn down WILL remember that you are committed to opportunities you’ve accepted, and will most likely attempt to hire you in the future.

    Love the site, Aaron!

    • Aaron Alon

      Thanks for the comment and support, Cody!



  1. The Care and Feeding of Composers – Professional Development for Musicians - […] Be dependable. Don’t back out of gigs, but if you must, see my blog on how to cancel a gig.…

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